Being an U/W photographer enables a diver to capture on film the beauty and essence of the marine world. It also adds a list of problems to the diver’s mental well-being, such as techniques, equipment, travel, etc. One of the ways to deal with these particular problems is through participation in an underwater photography club.

Depending on the growth of your club and its needs, this is close to accurate, and almost as easy!

One of the first and primary factors involved in starting a club is participation by its founding members, both from a monetary standpoint and time. The monetary costs encompass meeting room, fliers and phone calls. There are a number of variables involved, but listed below is an outline of a tried and proven method of starting and operating an U/W photo club.

How to start an underwater photography club

1.) Determine the need and interest for such a club in your area. This can be done by talking to dive stores, clubs and every U/W photographer possible. Many dive stores will be glad to give you the names and telephone numbers of photographers they know.

In starting the club an initial investment in fliers is most helpful. These can be displayed in dive and camera stores, clubs, universities, marinas and anywhere marine related activities are enjoyed. If your local newspaper has a weekly supplement or club and special events section, this is a good attention getter. Many newspapers offer free advertising space to non-profit clubs.

2.) Find a time that is convenient for most working people. Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday are good days and convenient times are 7:30 or 8:00 pm. Be sure to allow members time to make the meeting without being rushed.

3.) Select a convenient location for the meeting. This problem is most prominent in the larger metropolitan areas. Try to choose a central, easily accessible and easy to find location. After a few months you will get a feel for the attendance record. You may notice that people in certain areas can’t always make it because of the distance involved, so try to be flexible in the first months. In the beginning you may have to depend on donated space such as a dive store classroom or other alternatives. After your membership budget rises you may step up to a permanent meeting place, such as a hotel meeting room. Prices can vary for meeting rooms, depending on your needs. Many will furnish the room and bartender with a portable wet bar.

4.) Charge membership dues. This will depend primarily on the club’s overhead such as meeting room, bar, advertising, newsletter and any extras. It is a good idea to try and arrange as many benefits for the members as possible, such as discounts at photo, dive and framing stores, restaurants, etc. Anything you can offer will put you closer to filling your initial membership. Stress that the club is for entertainment and education. It also gives the participant a chance to do something with his or her work other than allowing slides to collect dust in a closet.

One of the most important aspects of getting the ball rolling and keeping it rolling is membership. All members should share in the responsibility of keeping the club active.

5.) Choose a format. This should be as educational and entertaining as possible. The club agenda could include a continuing photo course to be taught monthly; a fish or creature of the month slide show by the members; a question and answer period on problems and techniques; or an equipment list for the sale of used equipment.

If the entertainment features a slide presentation, it should be as professional as possible. The more entertaining the slide show, the more interest will be shown in the club, in a number of ways.

A slide show, for example:

A.) Promotes questions and answers on techniques and equipment.

B.) Provides a much greater chance of members and prospective members returning.

C.) Promotes participation by members (they will want to give their own presentations).

After the club gets on its feet financially it may be possible and definitely appropriate to pay for professional shows.

6.) Plan extracurricular activities. These can include trips and charters to an exotic shop or for a day. Try to take advantage of group rates. Activities could include:

A.) A flea market for dive gear and camera gear.

B.) An U/W photography contest for either the club or your area.

C.) Selling raffle tickets, with the winner receiving half the proceeds and the club receiving the other half.

7.) Organize club procedures and laws. Unfortunately, business is usually the boring portion of any club meeting, especially for a newcomer, but this is also the time to vote for any new ideas and changes. Check with other clubs or a lawyer to find out the legal requirements for operating a non-profit club. Laws can vary from state to state and city to city, so make sure that all is legal. You can be flexible in the beginning but after the club gets rolling, make sure that all laws are observed.

After the club gets on its feet, a selection of officers either by secret ballots or open debate will be appropriate.

Having reusable name tags for members helps to break the ice and let everyone know who’s who.

8.) Balance the budget. Any revenue generated by the club should go for the overhead and benefits. After a while extras, such as membership cards, newsletters and T-shirts can be added. It may even be possible to add a dissolve unit to the inventory, or bring in a big name for a yearly show.

9.) Put out a newsletter. This can be a self-supporting proposition if handled right. It will also save telephoning members and prospective members to remind them of the upcoming meetings and events.

The newsletter can be a simple one page flier or a full-fledged, information packed newsletter. One way to make it self-supporting is to encourage advertising. This can be done either through selling ads or simply putting an extra flier in the envelope. Classified ads should be free to all members!

An alternative to the newsletter, especially in the beginning, is a call list in which members volunteer to call other members or prospectives who live nearby. Generally, the best time to call is between 6:30 and 8:00 pm.

The success of the club, in the beginning, will depend on the energy and foresight of its founding members. Hopefully, this information will help you start a successful U/W photography club in your area. It’s really not as hard as it may seem!

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